Being arrested is not something most people would list on a résumé. Yet doing just that yielded a positive result for Paula Pecorella ’18.
As the managing editor of her West Islip High School newspaper, Paw Prints, she and feature editor Nicholas Krauss spent time in the slammer, and in court, in 2013 while trying to conduct an investigative journalism piece for an article on school security following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Their plight was covered by The New York Times. When Bruce Stasiuk, a workshop leader for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Stony Brook University, read the article, he invited Paula to his class to give an account of her experience. According to Stasiuk, the class was very impressed with Paula’s presentation and touched by her story. An OLLI participant connected her with School of Journalism Dean Howard Schneider.
“Dean Schneider told me I was the type of student he wanted in their program,” said Paula. “Although there were no seats in the School of Journalism left for that school year, he suggested I go to Suffolk and get my grades up so I could apply to Stony Brook.”
Two years later, after a combined three semesters at Suffolk Community College and a semester interning at the Disney College Program, Paula transferred to Stony Brook, where she has taken advantage of four internships, two fellowships and a study abroad program.
Given her First Amendment experience, Paula was uniquely qualified to be the recipient of the Student Press Law Center Active Voice Fellowship. She was recently awarded a $6,000 scholarship to develop a First Amendment project with high school students, aimed at advancing the welfare of teen journalists, particularly women, who face adversity in speaking about issues of public concern.
Paula is currently interning at CBS News and conducting in-depth research for multiple episodes of 60 Minutes. She also assists senior producers with planning, shooting, editing, transcribing, logging and filing those episodes. In fall 2016, she performed similar work on 48 Hours Mystery programs.
During summer 2017, she assisted with general production, including control room operation, and post-production editing at FOX Business Network in Washington, D.C.
Like the high school All-State gymnast that she was, Paula has displayed flexibility and fluidity in her academic career. She has since become a political science major with a minor in journalism.
Paula is weighing several career path options. One dream is to become a news producer for a major news network.
“On the other hand I would like to get my master’s in public policy from Stony Brook, so that will open some doors for me to work for the federal government, non-profits, or — dreaming big — the United Nations. I would like to cast my net wide and see what happens.”
One of Paula’s most life-changing ventures was a Semester at Sea she took in the Spring of 2016 when she enjoyed ports of call in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and England.
It was on this trip that Paula came face to face with stark poverty. Paula volunteered to help build and paint a school for young children in Ghana and performed literacy tests with the students. In addition to writing news and feature articles for The Statesman about the 11 countries she visited, the trip gave Paula the idea to co-found “Threads for Education,” a non-profit organization that raises money to cover the cost of a four-year college teaching degree to hire four teachers at a school in Ghana.
“By empowering these teachers through education, they will in turn be able to more effectively teach and give real opportunities to students who otherwise would know nothing but farming and poverty,” Paula says.
— Glenn Jochum